Essentials for a Great Workout Routine

It’s finally spring weather! After a super cold and dreary winter season, it’s so nice to sit on the porch with the sun shining and wind billowing. And of course, spring means that there is absolutely NO excuse to exercise! As much as I love working out and breaking a sweat, it’s definitely hard in the winter with the weather and just the ole winter blues.

With spring season and summer right around the corner, I wanted to share a few of my essentials for a killer workout routine.

1) Aaptiv

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Aaptiv is one of my newest discoveries, but quickly becoming my favorite and most crucial to have an amazing workout session. Warning: this is not a regular fitness app. The app provides motivation and guidance right from your headphones. For instance, when I do a treadmill workout, throughout the whole run, the trainers (one of my favorites being Rochelle) are continually motivating and cheering you on. The trainers are all super inspiring and their pumped-up voices are literally what makes me go that extra mile or push harder. Rather than my voice telling me that I should stop, go slower, or take a break, Rochelle’s voice shatters those doubtful thoughts. For those who are lacking in the motivation department, especially when you’re in the midst of the workout, give Aaptiv a try! (They provide a free 7-day trial. I’m sure you’ll be hooked on it after the 7 days, haha). If you check out their website and scroll down, you can hear a sample workout.

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^ Go to the website link and find this button to hear a sample workout!

2) Hydroflask Waterbottle

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I have this one in purple and LOOOVE it

Now, this isn’t just any water bottle. It has to be a Hydroflask. Oh my goodness, I can’t express how much I love my Hydroflask. On those hot and boiling days, opening my Hydroflask and sipping on ice-cold water is THE BEST FEELING. Even if I filled it up in the morning, my water stays cold even when I finish a workout late at night. (I believe that it insulates cold water for 24-hours and hot water for 12-hours). I highly recommend investing in a great insulating water bottle – it will change the way you drink water. (I’ve seen other popular insulating water bottles like S’well)

 

3) Scheduling

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Any bullet journal fanatics around here?

Out of all the essentials here, I believe that number three is the most important. Scheduling and carving out time to workout is key. For me especially, I am a busy-bee and have a million and one things to do in the weekday (and weekend sadly). So unless I schedule and write down that I’m going to workout, chances are, I’m not. And the workouts don’t have to be long at all. Even 20 minutes each day will make you feel much more energized and fit! In the app I was talking about previously, there is a filter where you can filter workouts depending on their duration, a feature I love and use a lot. If I only time to squeeze in a short workout I filter the time to 20 minutes and I can pick and choose which workouts I want to do within the 20 minutes. If I have more time, I would choose like a 45-min or even an hour long piece. TIP: Make sure that when you schedule your workout session, you create buffer time before and after the session. Usually I have a 5-min buffer before and a 10-min buffer after so that I have time to change, head to the gym, and take a break if needed.

 

4) Be realistic

Don’t overdo yourself. Make sure that your workout routine is sustainable. There are very low chances that you will continue a workout session if every time it is miserable and you hate it. In fact, for around 3 weeks, I’ve been routinely walking 10,000 steps daily. And while it took some modifications to get to that quota, the changes weren’t so drastic that I’ve been able to do it everyday. Making manageable changes are key to continue your workout session. In addition to manageable changes, it’s important to make sure you’re enjoying the workout. For me, I love running, taking long walks, golfing, or doing yoga, so I get to be happy while I’m burning calories – a win-win! I think Aaptiv does a great job with this (have I mentioned how much I love Aaptiv?!). The trainers are super motivating and after the end of each workout, I feel so rejuvenated and energized. The trainers at Aaptiv are what allows me to come back to the app each time for another workout.

 

What are your workout essentials?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

Glass half-full? Or glass half-empty? | Positive Mindset

The first day back from spring break, I had golf try-outs.

Now, I’m NOTHING NOTHING compared to Serena (she is a goddess at golf, but she’s way too humble to brag or talk about it, so I’ll do it for her: her handicap is an 8!!! An 8!!!).

However, ever since I’ve been a little kid, I’ve always wanted to learn and do golf. My dad is an avid golf fan and he goes out with his friends or coworkers pretty much every weekend. He always expressed interest for my mom and me to join him to golf. As much as he loved golfing with his friends, he’s always wanted to play with his family.

So after having a horrible experience with crew (it’s a very respectable sport, but it just wasn’t the sport for me), I had nothing to do for spring term. I decided to try out golf.

I started playing golf seriously last summer, so summer of 2016. I had weekly lessons and my dad and I would go out to the driving range several times a week. But being that I was away at boarding school and busy with school work, I could only practice golf intensely during school breaks.

So with a lack of sufficient experience, I was a wreck and full of nerves and anxiety leading to the golf tryouts. However, if there is one thing I learned from golf try-outs, it’s having a positive mindset.

I used to play tennis before (yeah, as you can see, I’ve had my fair share of many sports but I was never able to stick to a sport since I was so horrible at it haha. One of the reasons I fell in love with running – not much skill needed). One thing about tennis that I miss is the mental game. You have to have a strong mental game. Period.

I remember during tennis matches between each point, while waiting for the serve or before my serve, I would tell myself “Stephanie, you can do this. You can do this. Have confidence. Have faith. You can do this.”

And this sort of mental pep talk does wonders. It really does. Playing with a positive and confident mindset has a huge difference than playing with a negative and discouraging mindset.

Instead of regretting and grumbling of a bad shot, changing my mindset to “Okay, make the next shot the best you can,” has changed the outcome of my golf game drastically.

So in short, LIVE WITH CONFIDENCE. CARRY YOURSELF WITH CONFIDENCE.

Remember to always to have the glass half-full perspective. You’ll find yourself surprised of the positive outcomes that will come out of it.

How strong is your mental game?

xoxo,

Stephanie

Do I have to do rigorous exercise to stay fit?

Do I have to do rigorous exercise to stay fit?

This is definitely a question, actually more of a belief that I would have held last year.

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Golfing with my dad during the weekend. The sun was out, the sky was clear, perfect weather!

As much as I loved running and the feeling you get after a nice long run, I do have to admit that I did run for the sake of staying fit. My thought process was this: if I run, then that means I’m burning more calories, building up more stamina and endurance, yeah, I’m going to keep on running.

And this mindset would be the driving force despite the pain I felt in my knees, the heaviness in my quads, the limping after my run.

Now this isn’t to say that running is bad, no that’s not it. After taking a break from running and simply “intuitively exercising” I’ve realized that I’ve been extreme in my attitude towards exercise.

I reasoned that if you don’t exercise, namely rigorous exercise (which means lots of sweating, lots of heavy panting, frequent thoughts of “I can’t do this. I want to give up”), then I won’t be fit.

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I’m always up for a walk with my friends or family. Catching up while exercising! Best of both worlds!

However, as I continue to consistently do yoga, walk a lot, and go golfing, I realize that exercise doesn’t have to be necessarily rigorous to make an impact.

It’s just a matter of efficiency. Running, HIIT (High intensity interval training), boxing require a lot of energy but in a short burst of time. Yoga, golf, walking, hiking require much less energy, but during a longer period of time. Now, long distance running has both the energy and the length aspect, which is probably why the bodies of long distance runners is generally referred to as #bodygoals.

However, I think the key to exercise is not about the intensity or about the length, but about how much you enjoy it.

My dad personally hates running (yet he was my buddy runner for all my 5K GOTR races when I was in middle school – thanks dad!!! <3), but he LOOOVES golfing. He claims that he’s not good (I don’t know about that since he’s waaaay better than me lol) but he enjoys the sport so much. Now, there’s no point in him to run since he literally only goes to the gym once or twice a month to run on the treadmill. What good is that? Yeah, even if one mile is nearly 100 calories, what good is it if he only runs 4 miles ONCE a month? Just 400 calories.

But he almost golfing every weekend with his friends. And I mean every weekend. Minus the weekends that he’s visiting me that is. Even during the winter, he would go out with a million of layers and lots of heat packs. He even did a golf outing with his friends for a long weekend where for two days, they played 36 holes each. 18 holes before lunch and 18 holes after lunch. I know, extreme.

But despite the less energy golf requires, my dad does it in such high frequency that in the long run, golf is the exercise that makes him fit. And let me tell you, don’t regard golf lightly. All the times I’ve gone golfing with my dad, walking the full course is a lot of work. I had my phone in my pocket the whole time and after the course, I checked my phone and it was already over 10,000 steps. Think about it! I just walked the recommended number of steps by doing a round of golf! It definitely requires less energy BUT it’s for a prolonged time so it definitely does train you.

Sorry for this long rant – these days, I’ve been getting a lot of “aha!” moments about eating and exercise. And I wanted to spread this “wisdom” I’ve been getting with you all.

What’s your favorite form of exercise?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

Walkers high?

Am I making this term up? I don’t know.

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image source

There’s such thing as a runner’s high, and let me tell you, it’s real. Now, I’m not a professional runner, let alone a varsity runner at my school, but I sure did love running winter of 2015 all the way to fall 2016.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m taking a break from running as I’m just not feeling it (#intuitive exercise).

Anywho, I’ve been walking a lot more in response. Apparently, you’re supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day. Now, in a culture where we sit down to study, sit down to eat, sit down in the car, sit down just everywhere, that’s hard.

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image source

But…getting those steps gets addictive. At least for me as a Type-A, workaholic, and perfectionist. I’ve been going upstairs and downstairs getting my mom’s bag for her, getting my dad’s keys, just to log more steps. I’ve been running in place while I’m brushing my teeth and flossing. I’ve been walking to and fro in the house while I watch YouTube videos or read a book.

It’s kind of insane and silly to watch me like that in the house, but overall, I’ve been able to log in more steps and truth be told, I do feel like I’m getting enough exercise but just spread over time. So call me someone on walkers high, because honestly, I really just might.

Have you had walkers’ high before?

xoxo,

Stephanie

My Stretching Routine

I have to give credit where credit is due. While I’m not athletic (at all, trust me), I do consider myself quite flexible. I did ballet for a couple of years when I was in kindergarten and first grade and and then on and off during fourth grade, but I don’t think ballet really had anything to do with me and my flexibility.

Flexibility is crucial – it keeps your muscles elongated and supple, reduces the risk of injury, and helps with recovery. For me, my mom “forced” me to stretch every night before bed so that I can grow taller. As a daughter where her dad is 5’7″ (around 170cm) and 5’1″ (around 150 cm), anything that could help me grow taller by even a centimeter was accounted for.

However, even though I’ve stopped growing, this habit of stretching has ingrained in my head and body, that I stretch literally every night I go to sleep.

Below is my stretching routine:

 < Before Bed >

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SINGLE LEG HAMSTRING STRETCH | the key is to keep a straight back and a straight leg, you don’t have to touch your toes
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BOTH LEG HAMSTRING STRETCH | again, the key is to keep a straight back and a straight leg, you don’t have to touch your toes
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BUTTERFLY STRETCH | you don’t necessarily have to be as this happy as this woman, haha; BUT, the key is to keep a straight back while trying to push your knees closer to the ground – you should feel a stretch in your inner thighs
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LYING DOWN QUAD STRETCH | If you’re uber flexible, or you get used to this stretch and want to feel a deeper stretch, try lying down where with your back on the ground 😉

 

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SEATED TORSO TWIST | the key in this stretch is to keep a straight back and every time you breathe out, to twist your body a bit more

 < During the day/In the morning >

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STANDING UP SIDE STRETCH | The key is to keep your feet and legs together and to apply pressure on them. As you apply pressure on your lower body, while keeping a straight back lean to one side and hold. Then reset and lean to the other side. Make sure to breathe!
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STANDING UP LEANING BACK STRETCH | The key is to keep your pelvis stable and to lean your pelvis forward. This allows for maximum stretch. Also, keep your legs and feet together.
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CHAIR TORSO TWIST | I think you got the hang of it by now, but keep a straight back. As you breathe out, twist a bit more.
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STANDING QUAD STRETCH | Everybody has different flexibilities, so move your raised leg forward or backward from your body to get the right stretch. For stability, fix your gaze on ONE point on the ground.
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STANDING HAMSTRING HANG STRETCH | The key is to make sure your legs are straight (don’t make those knees buckle in!) and your back to be straight!

Try to incorporate at least ONE of these stretches this week! I think you’ll feel a difference!

How flexible are you?

xoxo,

Stephanie

If you have ____ minutes to spare…

 

I wanted to accompany this post along with my “intuitive eating” post. All of us, everyday, have those ‘awkward’ times. We have a couple of minutes to spare, but it’s too short to actually do something worthwhile.

Here are some workouts that you can do based on how much time you have in your hands:

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< 5 minutes >

  • 2 reps of 2 min jumping jacks / 30 sec rest
  • Alternating 10 pushups and 10 situps during the whole 5 minutes
  • 1 min full plank // 30 sec elbow plank // 1 min raised leg plank (30 sec on ea. leg) // 2 min side plank (1 min on ea. side) // 30 sec full plank
  • Alternating 10 wide squats and 10 regular squats during the whole 5 minutes
  • Jump roping (try jump roping for the whole time with minimal breaks)
  • 1 min high knees, 1 min skiers, 1 min mountain climbers, 1 min jumping lunges alternating, 1 min high knees

5-minute-cardio-warmup

< 10 minutes >

  • 5 reps of: 1 minute 90% effort sprint and 1 minute rest by slowly jogging in place
  • 4 reps of: 2 min jumping jacks / 30 sec rest
  • Alternating 10 pushups and 10 situps during the whole 10 minutes
  • 2 reps of:  1 min full plank // 30 sec elbow plank // 1 min raised leg plank (30 sec on ea. leg) // 2 min side plank (1 min on ea. side) // 30 sec full plank
  • Alternating 10 wide squats and 10 regular squats during the whole 10 minutes
  • Jump roping (4 minute steady jump rope, 2 minute rest, 4 minute steady jump rope)
  • 2 reps of : 1 min high knees, 1 min skiers, 1 min mountain climbers, 1 min jumping lunges alternating, 1 min high knees
  • Go on a jog for the whole 10 minutes
  • Search up 10 minute workouts on PopSugar Fitness or search on YouTube

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< 15 minutes >

  • 5 reps of: 1 min. 30 sec 90% effort sprint and 1 min. 30 sec rest by slowly jogging in place
  • 6 reps of: 2 min jumping jacks / 30 sec rest
  • Alternating 10 pushups and 10 situps during the whole 15 minutes
  • 3 reps of:  1 min full plank // 30 sec elbow plank // 1 min raised leg plank (30 sec on ea. leg) // 2 min side plank (1 min on ea. side) // 30 sec full plank
  • Alternating 10 wide squats and 10 regular squats during the whole 15 minutes
  • Jump roping (6 minute steady jump rope, 3 minute rest, 6 minute steady jump rope)
  • 3 reps of : 1 min high knees, 1 min skiers, 1 min mountain climbers, 1 min jumping lunges alternating, 1 min high knees
  • Go on a jog for the whole 15 minutes
  • Search up 15 minute workouts on PopSugar Fitness or on YouTube

 

Other YouTubers I love that have targeted time workouts: Blogilates, Tone it Up, Tara Stiles, Fitness Blender

Can you take up the challenge of trying some of these workouts this week?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

Intuitive Exercise?

 

Today, I want to talk about intuitively exercising. I really want to experiment with this “intuitive exercise” thing for a month and perhaps give you guys an update.

As many of you guys know, I am pretty strict and regimented about my exercising routine (as you can see from my various exercise blog posts). However, for the past three weeks or so, I’ve gone to the gym perhaps in total of three times. I know…gasp. It’s a surprise for me as well.

Now, I don’t know why all of a sudden, my motivation and love for exercise died down. Perhaps it’s because of all the injuries I’ve gotten this past year (knee problems, shin problems, foot stress fracture) and perhaps because I got cut from winter track this year that I really wasn’t required to run every day like I was in the fall with cross-country or last year when I did winter track. I don’t know. I really can’t say what the reason was.

Regardless, I’ve trying to get back into exercise. And I want to get back by intuitively exercising. And this means whatever makes me move and makes my heart pump for at least 30 minutes. At that means at that instant – that instant where you realize you should exercise — what do you want to do? What makes you excited to move around?

Whether that means I’m foolishly dancing to songs, whether that means I run for 10 minutes and walk for 20 minutes, whether that means I go on a hike with my parents, whether that means I go shopping with my mom (which always takes longer than 30 minutes), whether that means I go on YouTube and find a 30 minute full-workout video or do a nice relaxing yoga session, as long as I’m moving and my heart rate is increasing, I’m good.

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Taking a walk with my friends

I think this makes exercise so much more enjoyable. Not that running wasn’t enjoyable to me. I think because I came back from so many running injuries and thus had a hiatus from running, my endurance and stamina for running has dropped significantly. And being the Type-A perfectionist I am, every time I go on a run after my injury, I am striving to get to those splits and times and mileage again. Which is unhealthy. And which makes my body struggle and makes the whole exercise experience unenjoyable.

Therefore, I’m just going to do whatever floats my boat. Intuitive exercise doesn’t mean that I’m going to get out of shape or gain weight. In fact, some of the most slimmest countries do just that! Reading about the Japanese or Korean or Europeans, while these countries have the most delicious foods (at least in my opinion), the natives are so slim. Why? First their portions are small (what Serena just wrote about) and second, they walk A LOT. In America, we tend to rely a lot on our cars – but in these countries, there’s a lot of walking. While there’s still public transportation, walking to and from the bus stop, train stop, and all sorts all adds up. And so these people eat good food and stay in shape by simply walking! So don’t be afraid/think that your exercise regime isn’t “hard enough” – as long as you’re moving and you love what you’re doing to exercise, then you’re all set!

 

Do you intuitively exercise?

xoxo,

Stephanie

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck

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Personally, I think this is such a powerful quote. As one who is a perfectionist, I always want to do things perfectly. Perfect grades, perfect work ethic, perfectly organized desk, perfectly organized room, a perfect life. And of course, this perfectionist attitude took a toll on me (and I’m sure with others too), when I wanted a “perfect” body.

Now “perfect” is such a relative word. How do you measure what is perfect and what is not? Most times, if not all times, it’s the image that society and the media show. Those tall and lean girls with toned abs, thigh gap, and no bat wings – that’s what we deemed as “perfect.” Now, I’m not going to talk a lot about body image on this post because 1) I’ve talked about it on the blog before and 2) there’s a lot on the Internet about this topic.

So I want to address the second clause of this quote: “you can be good.” I lost a significant amount of weight over the course of three months in order to reach my “perfect” body. I was determined and resolute that this would make me happy and fulfilled. But as I lost my body, I lost my self-esteem and my self-confidence together. I started putting my worth as an individual on the number of calories I ate that day, the number that was put on the weighing scale. My happiness and my self-esteem solely came from those factors: that I was skinny enough and that I was eating only 1,200 Calories.

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Eating to my heart’s content – eating what I want to eat, NOT what my calorie limit tells me I can.

But when I hit the low point of this “perfect” body – I was losing hair, my hands and feet were getting increasingly cold when it was the middle of summer, I haven’t a period in four to five months, I was constantly tired despite clocking in 8 hours a day. My doctor, my family, and my friends were warning and advising me that this was extremely dangerous for me – that this is not the Stephanie they used to know and should not be the Stephanie that should follow. So long story short, I realized that I don’t have to have the perfect body. I don’t have to have that thigh gap. I don’t have to have perfectly toned abs, it’s fine and normal that I have flab hanging over my stomach when I’m sitting down. I don’t have to have slender arms, I can have a mini bat-wing or angel wing (whatever you want to call it). I don’t have to be perfect, I can be simply good. And for me, good means not the physical appearance but the internal state. To nourish and fill myself up with nutrient-dense, fresh, green, and clean foods. To give my body the nourishment, the physical activity, the rest, and the meditation that it so needs and deserves.

So again, mini-rant here today, but remember, GOOD, not perfect. GOOD.

Have you had to switch your mindset from perfect to good before?

xoxo,

Stephanie

20 Reasons to Exercise and Eat Healthy that are NOT Weight Loss

I wanted to write this post because it’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot over the past weeks. I talked briefly in a recent blog post that I’ve been falling out of my healthy eating and exercise regime lately. As Serena was encouraging and pushing me to eat healthy and exercise like my normal self, I thought back to why I exercised and why I ate healthy. I read over some of my blog posts (especially the one about why I workout – my first every blog post!), and I complied a comprehensive list of reasons to exercise and eat healthy.

Now, there are definitely girls and friends around me who are “skinny” and slim, but don’t eat healthy. I really hope that I can deliver the message that eating healthy and exercising should not be done for the sole purpose of losing weight (although that’s what society and the media seems to be spreading). Healthy eating and exercise reaps far more benefits than a physical appearance. So here is my list of 20 reasons on why you should eat healthy and exercise.

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To exercise:

  1. Works as an antidepressant.
  2. Reduces PMS
  3. Reduces stress and anxiety.
  4. Increases creativity
  5. Strengthens your heart
  6. Reduces risk of other diseases such as metabolic syndrome, many types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease …
  7. Add years to your life … and life to your years.
  8. Allows you to respect your body.
  9. Improves self-esteem – inside and out.
  10. Helps you sleep well.
  11. Pumps you up
  12. Gets rid of bad fad and increases good fat!

 

To eat healthier:

  1. Makes you happier
  2. Protects your bones
  3. Gives you a stronger immune system
  4. Helps cure irritable bowl syndrome (IBS)
  5. Gives you clear skin (check out my recent post on this)
  6. Soothes sore muscles
  7. Gives you more energy
  8. Reduces cravings for “bad” food

 

With all these reasons, eating healthy and exercising does not mean that you want to lose weight. It means that you want to reap all these health benefits!

Why do you eat healthy/exercise?

Xoxo,

Stephanie

Lately Obsessed #4

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I usually edit my blog and Instagram posts on VSCO, but this picture is wholly UNEDITED. Isn’t this beautiful?

ONE // drinking tea

Not only do I love drinking tea as the weather is so cold, tea helps both in calming me as well as rejuvenating me. The hot aromatic taste allows me to take a mental break from my busy school day. At the same time, I drink green tea (black black tea like earl gray for times that call desperate measures) instead of coffee. 

It’s also a great idea to drink tea in order to keep your body warm during the extremely cold temperatures (are any of you guys facing EXTREMELY cold temperatures?!)

TWO// moderate exercise

After being cut from winter track, I vowed that I would do as much work and running as winter track. That I would be fit just like the distance runners in my track team. However, after feeling pain creeping up onto the same place I got my stress fracture from XC, I decided against this extreme plan and turned to exercising for the purpose that I actually started loving it. To do it for stress relief and to find energy and happiness. 

Thus, instead of madly scrambling for the gym / from an outside run back inside to finish my homework, I’ve decided to exercise when my schedule allows for it. Right now, my priority is being a student and maybe there was a reason i got from track. Maybe I was being too obsessive over exercise (that I exercised everyday without fail over summer and thanksgiving break) and that this obsession for exercise, a healthy activity, was turning into an unhealthy one. 

So instead of working out six days a week, for at least over half an hour, with only cardio, I’ve been trying to do 3-4 workouts a week that are relatively short and mix cardio AND strength training. 

Read my blog post about workout plans if you haven’t already – I’ve been sticking to this regime, but the moderate version. 

THREE // meditation

I don’t necessarily meditate, but after our church’s youth group went on a retreat this winter break, I’ve been trying to do quiet time (dubbed QT) for 3-4 mornings every week. 

I’ve done it for one week now back in school (whereas back at home over winter break I had did it after I slept in and had my breakfast/lunch). I’ve set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than usual for QT. I go downstairs to the common room, plug my earphones to my Mac and listen to some Christian pop music and journal my thoughts and notes and I read the Bible. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but having this sort of routine has helped me so much. It has helped me become more calm and relaxed before I start my hectic day. It has helped me to complain less and be grateful for a day full of opportunities. It has helped me become a more selfless person and find areas where I can improve as a student, friend, daughter and human being. I really encourage y’all to try mediating this year. Even just for five minutes. 

What are you guys obsessed with this week?

Xoxo,

Stephanie

P.S.: Check out my other Lately Obsessed posts here, here, and here.